IN THE NEWS: Fanfare, little substance in Obama-Israel trip … Deal moves stopgap funding bill forward … U.S. says no evidence of chemical attack in Syria … Ike memorial hits snag … Why you should ignore Obama’s NCAA bracket
Can Anything Move Congress on Gun Control?
The rest of the country found out this week what Washington insiders have known for months: not even 20 dead children is enough to shift the debate over guns in America.
When Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he wasn't including a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity clips in the Senate’s gun bill, he was only saying out loud what aides had long whispered. The proposal, he said, "has less than 40 votes. That’s not 60.”
In other words, both Democrats and Republicans are unwilling to ban the kinds of guns that killed 28 people in Newtown and were discovered on Monday, along with plans to carry out a massacre, in a Florida college student's dorm room.
Innocents killed in schools, in a movie theater—even seeing one of their own shot in the head—has not been enough to change lawmakers’ opinions on guns. If gun control advocates want results, they’ll have to defeat their Congressional opponents at the ballot box.
It's the only language lawmakers seem to understand.
MUCH FANFARE, LITTLE SUBSTANCE IN OBAMA’S ISRAEL VISIT. President Obama arrived in Israel today for a state visit meant to shore up strained relations and assure all that the U.S. and Israeli governments remain close, The New York Times reports. Obama has assured President Shimon Peres that Israel has “no greater friend than the United States,” according to the Associated Press. Although he has mentioned the goal of lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, Obama is not expected to offer any proposal for renewing negotiations. The Syrian civil war and Iran’s nuclear program will top the agenda. Read more
- The Israeli embassy released this odd video “trailer” in anticipation of the trip.
REID, GOP REACH DEAL ON FUNDING VOTE. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced a deal today on amendments to a stopgap bill to fund the government past the end of March, The Hill reported. The Senate is expected to approve the continuing resolution as quickly as this afternoon, sending it to the House. It’s hoped the deal will avert weekend voting on the Democratic budget in the Senate. Read more
NO EVIDENCE YET OF CHEMICAL ATTACK IN SYRIA. U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday that there is no evidence yet that chemical weapons were deployed in Syria, the Associated Press reports. Government and opposition sources have accused one another of deploying chemical weapons in Aleppo. Meanwhile, nine liberal members of Syria’s opposition have left the rebels’ governing coalition in protest of the election of Ghassan Hitto, a former technology executive in Texas, as prime minister, according to Reuters. Hitto’s election was backed by the Muslim Brotherhood. Read more
- In a troubling turn for Syria, Sharia law has taken hold in areas of rebel control, The Washington Postreports.
SANFORD’S RUNOFF OPPONENT? TBD. Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford finished first on Tuesday in the GOP primary for the state's 1st Congressional District, but his political comeback isn't complete just yet. In the special election to replace Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., Sanford will face the second-place finisher in an April 2 runoff for the GOP nomination. It will still be a few days, however, before Sanford knows who his opponent is. Former Charleston County Councilman Curtis Bostic is slightly ahead of state Sen. Larry Grooms, 13 percent to 12 percent, with 99 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Associated Press. A recount is expected. Read more
GOP RESISTANCE TO IMMIGRATION REFORM CRUMBLES. Many are talking about the New York Times story today that begins as follows: “Republican opposition to legalizing the status of millions of illegal immigrants is crumbling in the nation’s capital as leading lawmakers in the party scramble to halt eroding support among Hispanic voters—a shift that is providing strong momentum for an overhaul of immigration laws.” The story goes on to note recent comments from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., urging a new way forward, but points out that lawmakers like Paul are being careful to avoid the perception that they support amnesty. Read more
IKE MEMORIAL HITS A SNAG. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, has introduced a bill that would toss out world-renowned architect Frank Gehry’s design for a memorial to President Eisenhower and solicit new proposals, The Washington Post reports. Bishop, chair of a public-lands subcommittee, appears partial to Eisenhower family concerns about the suitability of the design. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is reportedly also investigating the memorial. Read more
AILES STANDS BY OBAMA ‘LAZY’ COMMENT. Roger Ailes, the Fox News chairman, is standing by comments he made in a new book in which he described President Obama as “lazy” and Vice President Joe Biden “dumb as an ashtray.” Ailes said that he was saying it with a “humorous overtone” but is not backing down from the assertions, which caused a stir. “Are every one of those statements true? Yes,” Ailes says. “Should I have said them? Well, that’s a debate.” Read more
NEW FLA. POLL SHOWS CRIST WITH BIG LEAD ON SCOTT. A Quinnipiac University poll released today has some good news for former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist should he decide to run against his successor in Florida. Crist, who switched his party registration late last year, leads GOP Gov. Rick Scott, 50 percent to 34 percent, in a potential general election matchup. Read more
WANT TO WIN YOUR NCAA POOL? IGNORE OBAMA’S BRACKET. Obama may be a big basketball fan, but that doesn’t mean you should look to his March Madness brackets for guidance. The bracketologist in chief has correctly picked only six of the last 20 Final Four entrants. Read more
** A message from API: A tax on energy is a tax on everything. New energy industry taxes will cost jobs, undermine energy security and raise energy costs for everyone in this tough economy. Learn more at EnergyTomorrow.org
OBAMA TO MEET WITH PALESTINIAN LEADERS. The president continues his trip to the Holy Land on Thursday. He’ll deliver a keynote speech to Israeli university students in Jerusalem, then travel by helicopter to Ramallah, in the West Bank, to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salaam Fayyyad. Read more
JEWELL VOTE TO COME THURSDAY. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will vote on Sally Jewell’s nomination to head the Interior Department on Thursday, The Hill reported. Though Jewell, the CEO of outdoors company REI, comes from a business background, Republican opposition could hold up her nomination. Ranking member Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has threatened to hold the nomination over Interior’s ruling on a construction project. Read more
HOUSE TO PROBE MILITARY SUICIDES. Suicide-prevention efforts in the military will be in the spotlight Thursday as a host of military leaders testify before the House Armed Services Committee. Read more
"Oh, no question, I would clean his clock.... Just one knock on the head. It's done." -- Former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, on whether he would win a fight with current RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. He also referred to Priebus as “numb nuts.” (Washington Examiner)
IN 1991, NEW YORK WANTED HIS HEAD; IN 2013, HE’S FINALLY EXONERATED. In 1991, 40 detectives, “led by the swaggering, cigar-chewing Detective Louis Scarcella,” charged David Ranta with the murder of a rabbi. The story was New York City tabloid fodder, and the whole city wanted justice for a rabbi shot in the head during a botched jewelry robbery. Ranta, an unemployed drug addict, was sentenced to 37.5 years in jail, where he remains to this day. “[H]e is almost certainly not guilty,” write Michael Powell and Sharon Otterman in The New York Times. Over 22 years, each piece of evidence against Ranta has fallen away. His “confession,” the “witnesses,” all of it has been chalked up to bribery, police pressure, and pure mendacity. Thursday, Ranta might walk free. “I’d lie there in the cell at night and I think: I’m the only one in the world who knows I’m innocent,” he said. “I came in here as a 30-something with kids, a mother who was alive. This case killed my whole life.” Read more
* A message from API: New energy industry taxes will cost jobs and raise energy costs for us all. More at EnergyTomorrow.org.
PLAY OF THE DAY
BIDEN TAKES OVER THE VATICAN. Jay Leno was up in arms Tuesday about all things economic, touching on the bailout in Cyprus, Serbian woman Bojana Danilovic’s rare brain condition and various government programs he has deemed wasteful. Late Night’s Jimmy Fallon mentioned Rand Paul’s political turn on immigration reform, but saved his best jokes for the strange-but-true photo of Joe Biden attending Pope Francis’ first official mass. On CBS, David Letterman brought Biden into the Obama/Satan controversy from Monday and joked about the Republican leadership’s recent introspection. Watch it here
POLL: OBAMA SHOULD PUT MORE PRESSURE ON PALISTINIANS. Forty-eight percent of Americans think the president should put more pressure on Palestinians to compromise, as opposed to 25 percent who think Israelis should be pressured, according to a Gallup poll. The number who want Obama to pressure Palestinians has increased 10 percentage points in the last five years. A plurality of Americans still back an independent Palestinian state, but those numbers are down significantly from just a few years ago. Read more
TRACKING OBAMA’S TRIP TO ISRAEL. Here are five sources to follow on Twitter to keep up with the president’s trip to the Holy Land.
- @JeffreyGoldberg: National Correspondent, The Atlantic. “Whoa. Obama is quoting letters of Bibi's slain brother. This really is Operation Desert Schmooze.”
- @Ben Birnbaum: Contributor to The New Republic who focuses on Israel http://bit.ly/JIZWZq
- @972mag: A blog-based web magazine. “Israel uproots tree planted by Obama.” http://bit.ly/ZL1In3
- @BarakRavid Diplomatic correspondent, Haaretz Newspaper: “Obama calls Netanyahu Bibi again”
- @rudoren: Jodi Rudoren, Jerusalem bureau chief of The New York Times. “Netanyahu: ‘People should get to know Pres Obama the way I've gotten to know him;"